We are in 2017 an estimated 7,500 million people on the planet earth – three times the 2,500 million we were in 1950. According to projections made by UN, we will be 9,700 million in 2050 and 11,200 million at the end of the century. The growing world population and its natural desire for decent living conditions imply an enormous stress on our planet with global warming, depletion of resources, decreasing biodiversity, polluted and congested megacities and accumulation of waste. Can we handle this in the future?
Thorbjørn Waagstein, Economist, PhD, since 1999 working as international Development Consultant in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Should people have the right to move freely between countries? As it is well known, in large parts of the world, capital is already moving freely. And well-off people can move freely: in many developed countries, if you promise to invest enough, you get a permanent residence permit. But why limit this to well-off people? Why not let all people move as they want? It is a good question. But apart from the well-known problems in the country receiving the migrants, it is often overlooked that massive migrations carry high costs for the migrants. And the countries they leave behind tend to get stuck in a low level of development.
The EU is obviously in trouble as confidence in the Union is dropping in many member countries. Of course there are many explanations, some of these related to the life of the politicians in Brussels, disconnected from the people of their home countries. But unfortunately, the problems go much deeper. EU has simply not been up to the job it was supposed to do and has concentrated on the wrong issues. The drive to enlarge the EU with Turkey and Ukraine may be the last straw to break the camel’s back.
“Save Aleppo” has been the appeal for the last couple of years. It is a bit misleading, as there has for years been two Aleppos: East Aleppo under rebel control and West Aleppo under Syrian Government Control. The civil war between the two parts has imposed immense suffering on both East and West Aleppo, but most on the East, as the Syrian Army has superior fire power and dominates the sky. Urban warfare, when the civil population has not been evacuated, is cruel and barbarian, as the civil casualties are horrifying. And now that the battle of Aleppo is over, the recriminations begin: we should have done something to save Aleppo, and we didn’t.
But the question is: what should we have done?
Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish ex-PM that took a reluctant Denmark into the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, has not only avoided the dock, where many think he belongs. Unlike what happened in England, he has also avoided any public enquiry into the decision to participate in the invasion and possible war crimes committed. On the contrary, he was promoted to General Secretary of NATO and is now a well-paid speaker at international events. He doesn't have to look nervously over his shoulder to see if somebody is after him. No problem, this is Denmark.
A lot of people are horrified by the idea of Donald Trump becoming presidential candidate for the US Republican Party. And rightly so. They tend to look to Hilary Clinton as the sane, moderate mainstream US presidential candidate, who they hope will win. But when we look at their foreign policy statements, it is not so clear, which candidate would be more dangerous for the rest of us as a possible future American president. Taken at face-value, it looks as if it is Hillary.
The Middle East has many bizarre regimes. A theocracy in democratic disguise governing Iran, an elected coup general as President of Egypt plus Sultans and Emirs of all shades. And then the most bizarre of all: the Absolute Monarchy of the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. A medieval absolute Kingdom armed to the teeth with sophisticated weaponry and until recently awash with cash. Our most important ally in the region, who we support unconditionally, also when it chops off the head of its opponents, cuts off the hands of thieves and beheads women accused of sorcery. It is an absolute Kingdom and an absolute anachronism. How durable is it?
There have been good prices for commodities during the last decade: oil, gas, minerals, agricultural products. Now prices have plummeted. This implies a sea change as commodities are again a buyers' market, as it has been the case for most of the second half of the last century. It tips the correlation of forces in favour of the developed countries against the developing countries, which are generally heavily dependent of the export of commodities. But some developed countries are suffering too.
The Paris summit ended with an agreement, fortunately. Not good enough to save our grandchildren from climate disaster, but at least a beginning, which we hopefully will be able to build upon. Apart from the climate change deniers, who live in their own claustrophobic world, much of the disagreement is about justice: which are the countries to blame, and which should clean up their acts first? The Paris summit tried to avoid the question of justice and convince us that we all have to contribute, including the developing countries. And the developing countries seem to have gruntingly accepted that.
Independently of the outcome of the Paris Climate Change summit, big oil and coal have started an irreversible decline, facing the competition from renewable energies and an increasing political pressure to de-carbonize our societies. This changes completely the game and eliminates the incentive to reduce supply to get higher prices. In stead, the rush is now to exploit the oil and gas before it is too late. Who comes too late, loses. So OPEC has lost its power for good, and there is no chance it will get it back again.